Foreshadowing 2022: Specialized Software Companies May Face Bumps in the Information Highway

January 6, 2022

At one international intelligence conference, representatives of NSO Group were in good humor. The revelations about the use of their Pegasus system were, according to one person in attendance, great marketing. It struck me that this person who was sharing his impressions with me about NSO Group’s participation in a cocktail party, did not appreciate the power of marketing.

Specialized software vendors are now becoming part of the software landscape. “Former US Intelligence Analysts Sued For Hacking A Saudi Activist’s Phone On Behalf Of The United Arab Emirates” reports that there are risks to those who sign on to work for certain firms who obtain access to quite interesting software, tools, and and systems which allow confidential information to be made un-confidential.

The write up explains:

Three former US intelligence community analysts (two of which worked for the NSA) were fined $1.68 million for utilizing powerful hacking tools to target dissidents, activists, journalists, and the occasional American citizen for the UAE government.

Additional lawsuits are likely to be filed.

Here’s my take on the specialized software vendors in 2022:

  • Scrutiny and discussion of the companies providing governments with sophisticated surveillance and intelligence gathering systems will increase
  • The attention is going to make clear additional details about how these tools and systems accomplish their tasks. That information is going to diffuse. Actors will innovate and accelerate their efforts to increase the capabilities of unregulated and uncontrolled surveillance software.
  • Some of the specialized software vendors will have to shift their strategy. News releases about tie ups between specialized software companies may not be helpful in closing deals.

My hunch is that specialized software vendors will have to lower their profiles, rethink their marketing and positioning, and find a way to take more responsibility for their innovations. Since many specialized software vendors operate networks which validate and monitor their software’s operations, isn’t that a mechanism to take a more responsible approach to the use of what some like the Citizen’s Lab and the Electronic Frontier Foundation consider weapons?

My thought is that the Facebook-type approach has become popular among some specialized software vendors. But I don’t think 2022 will see a significant change in the vendors’ behavior. Those who monitor the sector, however, will amp up their activities.

Stephen E Arnold, January 5, 2022


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